In perimenopausal women, Pycnogenol may normalize cardiovascular risk factors, new study finds

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Cholesterol, triglycerides, blood pressure, and blood glucose–often elevated in perimenopausal women–were reduced and normalized with Pycnogenol (French maritime pine bark extract) supplementation, says a new study published in the journal Minerva Medica.

The clinical trial looked at 70 women between the ages of 40 and 50 years who reported comparable perimenopause symptoms that are also cardiovascular disease risks.

According to data from the American Heart Association and Go Red for Women, risk for cardiovascular disease increases at the onset of menopause as the body decreases production of estrogen.

Though estrogen supplementation has been studied for its ability to alleviate common perimenopausal symptoms, “hormone replacement therapy studies indicate that hormones cause a higher incidence of venous thromboembolism, strokes and also increase the risks for, breast and other cancers,” the researchers wrote.

This current study built upon existing analysis of Pycnogenol that suggest it may be an alternative to attenuate cardiovascular disease risk in perimenopausla women. “Pycnogenol an extract from the bark of the French maritime pine (Pinus pinaster), exerts a wide spectrum of antioxidative and anti-inlammatory effects,” the researchers added. “Furthermore, this extract has shown a range of cardiovascular benefits and an antidiabetic effect.”

Study details: Perimenopausal women between the ages of 40 and 50

Researchers looked at 70 women between the ages of 40 and 50. To be eligible, the women had to have been pregnant with at least one healthy child, have or had a professional activity, mild borderline increase in factors such as cholesterol, triglycerides, blood pressure, and fasting blood sugar, as well as have a Body Mass Index within normal range (below 26).

For 8 months, the women were divided into two groups: One group was assigned supplementation with Pycnogenol, while the other did not take the supplement.

Both groups were given guidelines for ‘menopausal best management’ (MBM) which means study participants needed at least 8-hours of sleep per night not later than 10:30 pm, regular meals of a balanced diet, reducing salt, and exercising 20 minutes a day, among other things.

Analysis: ‘Pycnogenol-supplemented group experienced a significant reduction of cardiovascular risk indicators’

Researchers looked at two different focuses for the study: Changes in menopause symptoms, analysed using a questionnaire for the first eight weeks of the study, and changes in cardiovascular risk indicators, performed using blood test after six additional months of supplementation and adhering to the MBM guidelines.

Based on the questionnaires, they found that there 41% of the Pycnogenol group reported significant relief of hot flashes (versus 3% in the control) as well as 25% reporting significant improvement of mood (compared to 12% in control).

Blood analyses of the plasma free radicals revealed that the Pycnogenol-supplemented group experienced a significant reduction of cardiovascular risk indicators. “The elevated cholesterol and triglycerides were significantly decreased (P<0.05) at 8 weeks. The slightly elevated blood sugar levels were also significantly (P<0.05) reduced to normal levels,” they reported.

“The results of the present study are in agreement with a previous study with patients showing signs and symptoms of metabolic syndrome,” the researchers argued. “Pycnogenol normalized also in this study the borderline elevated risk factors (cholesterol, triglycerides and blood glucose).”

Source: Minerva Medica

Print, DOI: 10.23736/S0026-4784.16.03913-7

Normalization of cardiovascular risk factors in peri-menopausal women with Pycnogenol®

Authors: Roberta Luzzi, Gianni Belcaro, Morio Hosoi, Beatrice Feragalli, Umberto Cornelli, Mark Dugall, Andrea Ledda

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